Posted on May 18, 2021 by
People often ask what there is to do at Smith Mountain Lake. The lake has an array of activities from horseback riding to fishing, visiting wineries, picnicking and walking trails. We have wonderful restaurants, many located lakeside. There are cute gift shops, mini golf, and 18-hole golf courses. One favorite activity is boating.
What you need to know about this lake when boating
If you are planning to rent a boat, our advice is to reserve it BEFORE you get here. Pontoons are a favorite for families and many young adults like to dash about on a jet ski. But we have seen people disappointed who try to reserve them the day of arrival and no boats are available. There are several marinas (Bridgewater, Parrot Cove, Bernards, Parkway, Captains Quarters, Mitchells–and there are others!)
You can apply for and get the Virginia Boating license online. There are about 15-16 modules and a quiz after each one. But then you are all set to be the captain of your craft. If you do not have a boating license, the rental establishment will give you a 15–30-minute crash course. You will need to complete it along with everyone else renting that day and it may cut into your boating time but it is required! You can take coolers aboard the boats along with towels, floats, noodles and sunscreen.
You are allowed to pull someone on the tube behind the boat but you must have a spotter keeping an eye on the tuber! You will make a large wake so be sure to stay at least 50 feet (200 feet is even better) clear of any docks and other boats!
Flying out of the SML Airport, there is an airplane on floats that occasionally lands on the lake. DO NOT APPROACH the seaplane. The pilot sits up very high and they may not be able to see you on a jet ski or pontoon even. Particularly during takeoff, a seaplane has very poor visibility. Stay well clear of a seaplane even though you may be curious. You can schedule a discovery flight through SML Aviation if you want to explore that sport further!
- Pack a picnic on the boat and stay plenty hydrated! Water and sports drinks work well for hydration. Other fun items to pack are grapes, rice cakes, granola bars, chips, strawberries, homemade cookies, sandwiches or anything else that can be handheld! Boats can be bumpy when trying to eat and drink. Pull up into a quiet cove or throw an anchor where it is not too busy to enjoy lunch! Please keep your trash on the boat! We have a very clean lake and love that about it!
- There are 500 miles of shoreline on SML. There are many, many coves. Keep your head on a swivel and keep looking for others. They can pop out of a cove and not be watching out for you! Just like in driving a car, assume, they don’t see you so watch out for them!
- There are channel markers. If you pick up one of the free maps, the channel markers are on the map. The “R” channel markers, for example, mark the Roanoke River and the “B” markers are for the Blackwater. Follow the markers so you don’t get lost. R1 is the channel marker by the SML dam. That’s a cool sight to see. Just be aware of the barrier that is there and do not pass it. The water is about 200 feet deep there.
- There are so many fun things to see on the lake including an ice cream boat (Track it with their FB page), the Virginia Dare Riverboat, a fire boat, and (I think) Boat Church may be back in place (after it floated away last time the lake levels rose suddenly).
- If you are near Bridgewater, feed the carp. They are located near the boats at Bridgewater Marina. They like bread and popcorn. I fed them biscuits once and they snubbed their big noses at them!
- Be sure to slather in sunscreen, especially the kids. Pack a t-shirt for children and adults in case anyone gets too much sun early in the day!
- Above all, be safe and have fun! There are plenty of coves with less traffic away from the “S” curve and main channel. Use that map and explore a little! Enjoy the scenery, beautiful home and the wonder of this Virginia jewel!
- (All photos taken by Karen DeBord)